Fort Sumter, located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, was named after General Thomas Sumter. However, the fort is best known as the site where the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter.
Fort Sumter was built after the War of 1812 as one of a series of fortifications on the southern U.S. coast. Construction began in 1829, using slave labor, and the structure was unfinished in 1860, when the conflict began. Seventy thousand tons of granite were imported from New England to build up a sand bar in the entrance to Charleston harbor, which the site dominates. The fort was a five-sided structure (although not a regular pentagon but more like the home plate used in baseball). It is a brick structure, 170 to 190 feet long, with walls five feet thick, standing 50 feet over the low tide mark. It was designed to house 650 men and 135 guns in three tiers of gun emplacements, although it was never filled near capacity.
The battle of Fort Sumter signaled the beginning of the Civil War. On December 26, 1860, five days after South Carolina seceded, U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson abandoned the indefensible Fort Moultrie and secretly relocated his two companies (85 men, 13 of them musicians) of the 1st U.S. Artillery to Fort Sumter. The Fort was not yet complete at the time and fewer than half of the cannons that should have been there were available due to military downsizing by James Buchanan. Over the next few months, repeated calls for Union surrender from Confederate Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard were ignored, and Union attempts to resupply and reinforce the garrison were rebuffed.
On April 12, 1861, at 4:30 a.m., Confederate batteries opened fire, firing for 36 straight hours, on the fort. It has been said that Edmund Ruffin, a soldier and secessionist from Virginia, fired the first shot, although that is under some debate. The garrison returned fire, but it was ineffective, since Major Anderson did not allow his men to use cannons that had a high possibility of being hit by the Confederate attack. On April 13, the fort surrendered and was evacuated. No one died in the actual battle, but one Union soldier died and another was mortally wounded when firing a cannon showing their surrender. Accounts, such as in the famous diary of Mary Chesnut, describe Charleston residents along what is now known as The Battery, sitting on balconies and drinking salutes to the start of the hostilities.
A special military decoration, known as the Gillmore Medal, was later issued to all Union service members who had performed duty in Fort Sumter during the opening battle of the American Civil War.
The Fort Sumter Flag became a popular patriotic symbol after Maj. Anderson returned North with it. The flag is still displayed in the fort's museum.
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First Mortgage Gold Bond, issued in the 1890’s
Printed by E. Perry & Co., Printers
21” (h) x 14” (w), including coupons
This certificate has vertical and horizontal fold lines, pen cancels in the signature areas and body, and edge faults and toning from age.